Classic Album Review: ZZ Top – Eliminator

This week there will be no messing around with any Mickey Mouse, common-or-garden, multi-Platinum albums. No siree. This weeks album is the globe straddling, chart shattering, Diamond Certified behemoth from “that lil’ ol’ band from Texas” – ZZ Top’s “Eliminator”.

ZZ Top – Sharp Dressed Man

Eliminator is the eighth studio album by Texas blues-rock trio and was released in 1983. It has been cited as a landmark release in the history of rock music, was a huge international success, produced a string of internationally successful hit singles and sold over eleven million copies in the U.S. alone.

ZZ Top – Legs (Live)

ZZ Top were formed in Houston, Texas during the late 1960s. For over 50 years the band was composed of Billy Gibbons  (vocals, guitar), Frank Beard (percussion) and Dusty Hill (bass, vocals). The band was formed in 1969 by the merging of two rival bands, Billy Gibbons’ Moving Sidewalks and Frank Beard and Dusty Hill’s American Blues. Within a year, they had signed with London Records and released ZZ Top’s First Album (1971). Subsequent releases, such as Tres Hombres (1973) and Fandango! (1975), and the singles “La Grange” and “Tush”, gained them critical acclaim, extensive radio airplay and significant commercial success. By the mid-1970s, ZZ Top had become renowned in North America for their powerful live performances based on their signature sound of Billy Gibbons’ aggressive, over-driven, blues guitar, combined with Hill and Beard’s punchy, driving, rhythm section.

However, by 1979 the band had started to move in a new direction in terms of both image and musical output. Gibbons and Hill were now sporting their trademark sunglasses and chest-length beards, and their sound began to change as they started to experiment with synthesizers and drum machines. Gibbons has suggested in interviews that this move towards the use of synthesizers and drum machines was inspired, in part, by the band’s first shows in Europe and their exposure to the then current European music scene. In early 1980, ZZ Top made their first appearances in Germany (on the Rockpalast TV show) and in the U.K. (on The Old Grey Whistle Test).

ZZ Top – Lowdown In The Street (1980 – Rockpalast)

ZZ Top – Cheap Sunglasses (1980 – The Old Grey Whistle Test)

During this period in Europe the band had their first exposure to the work of electronic groups such as Depeche Mode and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Gibbons, in particular, was impressed with the European synth-pop movement and ZZ Top began to experiment with synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines, which subsequently featured prominently on their 1981 album El Loco.

El Loco was a success and was certified Gold in the United States. Encouraged by this, the band continued to experiment with their new hybrid style of electronic Texas blues, and these changes came to fruition in 1983 when they released their hugely successful Eliminator album. An album that proved to be the band’s most successful album release to date and moved ZZ Top out of the relative musical backwater of Texas blues into the global mainstream of popular music.

ZZ Top – Gimme All Your Lovin’

The album sold phenomenally well in the United States, but also broke new ground for the band, firmly establishing them in numerous overseas regions where they had previously enjoyed little success. Eliminator’s blend of blues rock, hard rock and – crucially – razor sharp pop sensibilities (and enough lyrical innuendo and double entendre to unsettle Talbot Rothwell) brought them an entirely new and much younger audience. An audience who were very comfortable with the band’s now well-established style of placing synthesizers and drum machines front and centre of the mix.

ZZ Top – TV Dinners

Eliminator produced several international hit singles, including “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, “Legs”, “TV Dinners”, “Got Me Under Pressure” and “I Need You Tonight”, which all helped to propel the album to prolonged international chart success. This allowed the ZZ Top to tour extensively over the next few years in areas of the world that were previously unavailable to them. The band took full advantage and Eliminator would eventually sell over 15 million copies worldwide.

ZZ Top – Got Me Under Pressure (Live)

The two subsequent follow-up albums, Afterburner and Recycler, both followed the Eliminator template. Both albums received lukewarm reviews on release, but nevertheless achieved multi-platinum status and produced some classic ZZ Top tracks.

ZZ Top – My Head’s In Mississippi

Following Recycler, the band moved away from synth-pop territory and made a return to their Texas blues-rock roots. By the time of Dusty Hill’s death in 2021, ZZ Top – “that lil’ ol’ band from Texas” – had become the longest-running band with an unchanged line-up in the history of popular music, had released 15 studio albums, sold an estimated 50 million albums worldwide and had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Album track listing

  • Gimme All Your Lovin’
  • Got Me Under Pressure
  • Sharp Dressed Man
  • I Need You Tonight
  • I Got the Six
  • Legs
  • Thug
  • TV Dinners
  • Dirty Dog
  • If I Could Only Flag Her Down
  • Bad Girl


  • Billy Gibbons – guitar, harmonica, vocals, bass, keyboard & synthesizers
  • Dusty Hill – bass guitar, vocals
  • Frank Beard – Percussion

Additional musicians

  • Linden Hudson – synthesizers
  • Terry Manning – drum machines, electronic drums, bass, keyboards & synthesizers, backing vocals
  • Jimi Jamison – backing vocals


Featured Image: Brian Marks, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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